Time Out says
At Catch & Release, lobster rolls and scallops and, yes, even chef Jason Neroni's coveted pasta is a hit.
With a collective sigh of relief, chef Jason Neroni is back, this time at the New England seafood spot Catch & Release in Marina del Rey. Neroni won the collective hearts of Angelenos with Superba Snack Bar (and his follow up, Superba Food + Bread), where his handmade pasta, among other talents, satisfied our carb cravings. This time around, Neroni’s childhood summers spent in Maine have provided the impetus for Catch & Release, where lobster rolls and trays of oysters are served under buoys and life preservers hanging on the wall.
Don’t worry—Neroni’s pasta is still here. One of my favorite dishes is the bucatini, thick strands of wonderfully crafted pasta tossed with Dungeness crab and sweet corn. Flecks of chili give the dish a welcome kick, but the sweetness pervades, and I found my fork twirling around the plate again and again. Yet this is one of only two pasta dishes here; the menu’s focus is on a raw bar and ample fish section. Oysters, little neck clams, shrimp cocktail—it’s all here, including beautiful bay scallops on the half shell. A dressing of ramp and cucumber tops the mollusks, which slide down with an ease that makes the price tag ($15 for six) a bit more bearable.
There is a lobster roll, of course. The New England staple has seemingly popped up everywhere, prompting fierce debate on who has the best version in town. Catch & Release’s version is solid, albeit small. We ordered the half portion, whose petite presence was easily demolished in three bites. Old Bay fries make up three-quarters of the plate; a fact that might normally be infuriating if it weren’t for the fries being so damn good. I would take a plate of these fries over the Brussels sprouts and broccolini any day, which are unfortunately oversalted and drowning in too much parmesan.
Neroni’s fish dishes range from a whole Maine lobster to striped bass with zucchini purée, but I wanted to try the New England clam bake, a colorful pot of shellfish, corn, potatoes and celery cooked in lobster broth. On its own, the individual components are flavorful and tender, though not the easiest to scoop up with a spoon or fork. But the broth has an acidic quality that doesn’t quite mesh with the pot’s other occupants, and I found myself wishing I had more of that bucatini instead. Still, there is plenty to be excited about here: an excellent raw bar, quality cocktails, those heavenly fries. And dessert, naturally, like a delicate lemon meringue with creamy, homemade strawberry sorbet. It tastes like a summer in Maine.
What to Eat: The bay scallops ($15/$22). The lobster roll ($12/$24). The bucatini ($19). The lemon meringue ($10).
What to Drink: Beer and wine are on hand at Catch & Release, but the tiki-inspired cocktails are too good to pass up. With names that conjure up seaside living—Surf Report, Cape Codder, Del Rey Daquiri—the risk of knocking back sugar-laden libations is high. Yet not only is the Wicked Pissah fun to order, it’s an expertly balanced drink made with snap ginger liqueuer, bourbon, amaro, benedectine and honey—not too sweet, and with enough kick from the ginger to make you feel like you could captain a pirate ship.
Where to Sit: Catch & Release’s outdoor patio is a fine place to sit on a sunny afternoon, slurping down oysters and cocktails and doing some serious people watching. Inside, there are communal tables where you can look out onto the open kitchen, as well as a comfortable bar to knock back that Wicked Pissah.
13488 Maxella Ave
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 4-10:30pm; Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 4-11pm; Sat 11am-3pm, 4-11pm; Sun 11am-3pm, 4-10;30pm|
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